TORONTO - Lawyers for radio star Jian Ghomeshi made good Monday on their promise to launch a lawsuit against the CBC, alleging breach of confidence, bad faith and defamation by the public broadcaster.
Ghomeshi, 47, is seeking $55 million from the CBC, according to the lawsuit, plus special damages.
The suit says "the claim is the result of the CBC misusing personal and confidential information provided to it in confidence and under common interest privilege."
On Sunday, the CBC said it was severing ties with Ghomeshi because of "information" it had received about the "Q" radio show host. Lawyers from Dentons Canada LLP then announced their intention to sue the CBC on Ghomeshi's behalf.
Shortly after that, Ghomeshi posted a long Facebook message saying he had been fired by the public broadcaster for his "sexual behaviour." In the post, Ghomeshi explained that he liked to engage in rough sex, but said it was always consensual. He said he told the CBC about his sexual preferences after he became aware that a freelance writer was looking into allegations that he'd engaged in non-consensual "abusive relations."
The lawsuit alleges that the CBC misused "personal and confidential information provided to it in confidence." It says Ghomeshi approached CBC executives Chris Boyce and Chuck Thompson to advise the broadcaster of "the threat of the public release of a fabricated story of his personal life."
Over several months, Ghomeshi provided CBC representatives with private information, including details of his sexual relationships, according to the suit. The broadcaster "assisted in drafting responses to media enquiries, as well as press releases to be issued on Mr. Ghomeshi's behalf, if it became necessary to do so," the suit says.
The suit alleges that CBC representatives assured Ghomeshi — including in the days immediately before the public broadcaster ended their relationship with him — that they'd conducted an internal investigation when the allegations of lack of consent were first raised and were satisfied they were false.
CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said the broadcaster had no comment on the lawsuit except that it intends to contest the matter vigorously. None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been proven in court.
The suit alleges that in meetings, the CBC told Ghomeshi it was not concerned about whether his sex practices were consensual. Instead, he was terminated because of "possible negative public perception" should the fact that he engaged in BDSM become public, claims the suit.
"In doing so, the CBC was making a moral judgment about the appropriateness of BDSM," the suit says.
It also says that Ghomeshi was not aware that the CBC was continuing to pursue an investigation into his conduct or that the "deeply personal" information he had provided would be used as basis for his dismissal.
"Mr. Ghomeshi would not have shared information about his private life with the CBC, had he appreciated that the CBC would ultimately use the information provided to it to terminate his employment," says the suit.
The suit goes on to say the "conduct of the CBC has negatively impacted and will continue to impact Mr. Ghomeshi's public reputation and future employment and other opportunities."
There is no real limit to the damages a person can claim.
The suit repeats the claim, first made by Ghomeshi in his Facebook post, that the allegations began with an ex-girlfriend. It says that he and the woman engaged in consensual role play and BDSM during their relationship of about a year. The relationship ended when the woman wanted to become exclusive and Ghomeshi did not, according to the suit.
"The woman is suspected to have approached a reporter and others to share a fabricated story about her relationship with Mr. Ghomeshi, which recast their relationship as one where she did not consent to the sexual activity in which they repeatedly engaged," the suit says.
Late Sunday, the Toronto Star reported that it approached Ghomeshi with allegations from three women who say he was physically violent to them without their consent during sexual encounters or in the run-up to such encounters and that Ghomeshi — through his lawyer — responded that he "does not engage in non-consensual role play or sex and any suggestion of the contrary is defamatory."
The Star reported none of the women filed police complaints and that their reasons given for not coming forward publicly included the fear they would be sued or face Internet retaliation. The Star also reported that Ghomeshi told the newspaper he didn't understand why it was pursuing allegations when his lawyers had told the newspaper they were untrue.
A lawyer for Ghomeshi did not respond to requests for comment Monday on the allegations published by the Star.
Ghomeshi wrote in his Facebook post that he has also filed a grievance with his union. Carmel Smyth, president of the Canadian Media Guild, said she could not comment on individual members.
Ghomeshi's abrupt departure leaves a huge void at the CBC, where he built "Q" — which he co-created — into one of the public broadcaster's most popular programs.
"Q" guest host Brent Bambury told CBC-Radio listeners on Monday that the show would indeed go on. The longtime CBC personality opened the show by acknowledging that it was a "very hard day" for fans of the daily chat program.
Meanwhile, CBC worked to scrub evidence of Ghomeshi's prominent role at the network. A sprawling floor-to-ceiling advertisement for "Q" featuring Ghomeshi's smiling visage was torn down from CBC headquarters.
"Q," which launched in 2007, is also broadcast on over 180 NPR/PRI stations and syndicated in the U.S. Julia Yager, a spokeswoman for PRI, said Sunday that the radio broadcaster will "work with the CBC as they plan what is next for Q."
CBC has said the decision to cut ties with Ghomeshi was "not made without serious deliberation" and that it would contest a lawsuit if served with legal documents.
By Laura Kane, The Canadian Press